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Permanent link to archive for Sunday, February 17, 2002. Sunday, February 17, 2002

Salon: Losing the war on patents

Simon Fell has a new Radio tool that keeps you updated on Weblogs.Com without having to go there.  

Nicholas Riley has a Mac OS X script that adds the Radio menu to his Dock. Wow. Nice. And he uses one of the neatest tricks from 1997 to get you the software. 

Robb Beal: "Table-less CSS designs are for people with time to experiment, not for busy people shipping product for a diverse user base." 

Kevin Altis: "What are examples of WYSIWYG products that do CSS right?" 

As promised, more comments on CSS, posted below

Matt Howie: "You know those pansies whining about fuel economy? Run them over." 

The Circle is a "scalable decentralized peer to peer application." 

David Brown: "One of the features in UserTalk that I enjoy the most is the feature that I thought was the most useless when I first read about it." 

NY Times: "Cars have taken the names of all sorts of places and things, but the Mazda MP3 is probably the first model to be named after a feature of its sound system." 

Clark Venable: "I installed Radio 8 on my secretary's computer today (complete with serial number). She's so smart that she could see right away what to use it for." 

Michael Himsolt is posting to Radio using BBEdit on Mac OS 9 via XML-RPC. 

Steve Hooker is doing a CSS-based Radio site. 

Four years ago today Chris Heilman posted a fantastic Frontier at a Glance page with links to the community and UserLand and docs, and all kinds of cool stuff. 

Lots of news and new ideas for a Sunday. 

Web bugs in XML 

A picture named brentThrowingSnowball.gifI'm still doing the line by line review of the community server running behind Radio 8. Yesterday I worked on the Web "bug" -- a 1-pixel graphic that's the key to hit and referer tracking for Radio sites. Such a tiny little thing, but it provides so much information for the community.

One of the biggest feature requests is that we do something similar for the XML feeds that Radio 8 users produce and read. As I was doing the bug review (heh) it hit me squarely in the middle of the forehead. If our XML files had the URL of a web bug you should ping when you've read the file, bing, there you are, we've got the feature everyone wants.

What's cool about this is that we don't have to wait for the browser vendors to do anything. It's my code doing the reading, so all we need to do is add a new element to our XML feeds. The politics in the syndication community will probably be the hardest part of the feature. I wanted to write this up before I forget.

Comments in Radio sites 

Another of the big feature requests for Radio are comments.

Right next to the permalink of an item, a link to a popup window where readers can share their love and admiration, or answer the question that you're asking, or drag you down a notch or two with a nice juicy flame.

Murphy-willing we should have that feature ready to roll tomorrow or Tuesday. You can see it working on Jake's test Radio site. He's a late night worker (I'm early morning) so he won't read your comments until around 4PM Pacific.

How did we do it? Manila. Basically any Manila server can host discussions for Radio users. Everything has a place and a purpose. And it's an open design. We'll show people how to plug in any discussion server to form communities of Radio sites. More of that, much more, coming soon.

A nice review 

TopXML: What is XML-RPC?

A few days ago I ran a pic of a cat. I think it's only fair to have a pic of my favorite soft drink to balance things out.The story includes a mini-review of Radio that makes me proud. "In fact one server tool called Radio (created by UserLand) is quite impressive as it provides an enormously powerful API (based on XML-RPC and SOAP as well) which enables websites of huge complexity to be created very simply. What Microsoft is hailing as a Hailstorm of innovations, Radio has probably already delivered the basic tools for only $39."

Signs of a developer community 

Yesterday Dann Sheridan shipped something very cool for Radio -- a way to do dynamic browser-based dashboards that link into the core of Radio's XML engine. There isn't a lot of software in Dann's release, but it's still a breakthrough. Talking with John Robb on Friday I asked if this wasn't just a gimmick. Before I finished asking the question I realized that it wasn't, any more than the features we put into Radio that make it easy for first-timers to ignore the engine and focus on the interface that Steve Gillmor calls "placid" were gimmicks. At UserLand we call those John Robb Features, things the engineers wouldn't think of because we're too accustomed to crawling around in the complexity of the environment. Dann is a Radio newbie, at a programming level, and he's given us a key John Robb Feature for the future. Yes for some people refreshing the page is too much to expect. A readout that refreshes on its own lowers the barrier one more inch, letting even more people in. And it's a feature an engineer could learn to love too. Imagine a log, displaying on the machine next to you, and to find out what's going on there you just have to look at the machine -- you don't have to find the mouse, find the Refresh icon, click it and wait. Steps saved even for those in the know are still steps saved.

Another sign of developers supporting Radio as a platform is the work being done by Seth Dillingham and Brian Andresen at Macrobyte. With Radio at $40, and the economy so tough, they're going to do something bold -- they're going to release Conversant for Radio 8 and Frontier. It's a very powerful environment for doing Web apps. At the same time, they've released as an early beta, a tool that allows Radio and Frontier to communicate securely over HTTPS. What a gift. I understand that we're going to be able to distribute this work, once it's done, as part of the core release of both Radio and Frontier, so Murphy-willing, we'll all be able to communicate securely, shortly. There's a caveat though, this is only the client side of HTTPS, we still have to get it working in our server software.

Scott Andrew on CSS 

He says: "The push for XHTML/CSS gets a lot of resistance from certain people, which leads me to wonder: what's the big deal? Why is it when web developers ask for something as simple as CSS, or a valid XHTML template, we either get harsh ridicule or a patronizing chuckle and pat on the head?"

There's a misunderstanding here. I'm not chuckling or patronizing, I'm implementing. We now support CSS. If you go back to my original post, you'll see how I framed the question then, and it's largely still how I frame it, except now I've been said to be at war with CSS, so I'm more careful about stating my opinion. Too bad. Because if you're a soldier in a cause and you want to win, you have to look at the weak spots just as carefully as you do the strengths. I will continue to study CSS, try to find the good stuff, but understand that I have to look at the whole picture, not just what you want me to.

Hurdles CSS must overcome 

1. Installed base. Millions of people know how to do basic HTML. They don't know CSS. People who know how to layout with tables in all likelihood will continue to do so.

This is the second cat to ever appear on Scripting News.2. It's confusing. This might be solved by a streamlined howto. CSS for Newbies. Going crazy with CSS. Easy to read. Self-deprecating. No preaching. Edited over and over to take out the zealotry (even advocacy). Maybe this hurdle can be erased most easily, but right now it's hard for a busy developer to find all the information needed to be successful, in one place. (BTW, you might consider the Manila theme to be a milestone for CSS. I was able to create a CSS-based site in about a minute, even though it would have taken hours starting from scratch.)

3. All those "non-conforming" sites. At best the Web five years from now will be 50 percent CSS and 50 percent table-based. Browsers will still have to support tables for layout.

4. It's weak. I still want lineto, moveto and drawstring. That would be worth converting my brain to. (Hardly any conversion needed, I already know how to do it from programming in C.)

5. It's incomplete. Look at all the problems people are having doing basic webloggish things in CSS. Is it worth the pain if the result is less functional than that it would replace?


Last update: Sunday, February 17, 2002 at 5:36 PM Eastern.

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